I first heard about the Clock of the Long Now in 1996 while reading Brian Eno’s diary from 1995 “A Year With Swollen Appendices”. In it he quoted Danny Hillis’s initial idea for the clock written in 1993:
When I was a child, people used to talk about what would happen by the year 2000. Now, thirty years later, they still talk about what will happen by the year 2000. The future has been shrinking by one year per year for my entire life. w I think it’s time for us to start a long-term project that gets people thinking past the mental barrier of the Millennium. I would like to propose a large (think Stonehenge) mechanical clock, powered by seasonal temperature changes. It ticks once a year, bongs once a century, and the cuckoo comes out every millennium.
Brian Eno (a member of the Board of Directors and designer of the clock’s melody) adds:
Such a clock, if sufficiently impressive and well engineered, would embody deep time for people. It should be charismatic to visit, interesting to think about, and famous enough to become iconic in the public discourse. Ideally, it would do for thinking about time what the photographs of Earth from space have done for thinking about the environment. Such icons reframe the way people think.
Shortly after it was published in 2000 I read Stewart Brands book “Clock Of The Long Now: Time And Responsibility: The Ideas Behind The World’s Slowest Computer”, then there was a very long period where it seemed the project has stalled.
11 years later the clock is officially under construction. Jeff Bezos recently got involved and donated 42 million dollars as well as a West Texas mountain in which to house the clock. The mountain is on the same property as his spaceport, BlueOrigin. He also launched a website with photos and a listserve to reserve visitation timeslots “when it is complete (many years into the future)”.
Last month Kevin Kelly (Long Now Foundation Board Member) posted “The Clock in the Mountain”, a summary of where the project is now. Only a week later Wired published “How to Make a Clock Run for 10,000 Years” which focuses on the individuals making this crazy idea a reality.
I love the idea of thinking on a 10,000 year timeframe. I cannot wait until the day when I buy a plane ticket to Texas to see it for myself.